Andalusia is considering more irrigation near Spanish wetlands

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – A plan to increase irrigation in an area bordering one of Europe’s most valuable wetlands is set to go ahead on Wednesday if lawmakers in southern Spain’s Andalusia region vote for it. The proposal to reallocate the land goes against the advice of ecologists and repeated warnings from European Union officials.

The vote is expected to put the bill on the road to law. It is supported by the ruling conservative People’s Party, which has an absolute majority in the regional parliament based in Seville. It also has the support of the far-right Vox party.

When the measure goes into effect, around 1,500 hectares of land near the Doñana Nature Reserve will be declared irrigable. This would grant amnesty to the many farms already using illegal wells to tap the aquifer lying beneath the wetlands to grow strawberries for export across Europe.

The People’s Party says its intention is to help farmers caught in legal limbo and promises the plan will not harm wetlands.

However, ecologists and opposition parties accuse the People’s Party of winning votes ahead of regional elections on May 28. The bill could be passed before the elections, although that is not guaranteed.

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In 2021, the European Court of Justice condemned Spain for neglecting the wetlands of Doñana.

Spain’s central government, led by a left-wing coalition, agrees the plan would only increase stress on aquifers already stressed by a prolonged drought caused by climate change and legal farming.

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